Influence of the large-Z effect during contact between butterfly sister species

Erik D. Nelson, Qian Cong, Nick V. Grishin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recently diverged butterfly populations in North America have been found to exhibit high levels of divergence on the Z chromosome relative to autosomes, as measured by fixation index, (Formula presented.). The pattern of divergence appears to result from accumulation of incompatible alleles, obstructing introgression on the Z chromosome in hybrids (i.e., the large-Z effect); however, it is unknown whether this mechanism is sufficient to explain the data. Here, we simulate the effects of hybrid incompatibility on interbreeding butterfly populations using a model in which populations accumulate cross-incompatible alleles in allopatry prior to contact. We compute statistics for introgression and population divergence during contact between model populations and compare our results to those for 15 pairs of butterfly species interbreeding along a suture zone in central Texas. Time scales for allopatry and contact in the model are scaled to glacial and interglacial periods during which real populations evolved in isolation and contact. We find that the data for butterflies are explained well by an otherwise neutral model under slow fusion conditions. In particular, levels of divergence on the Z chromosome increase when interacting clusters of genes are closely linked, consistent with clusters of functionally related genes in butterfly genomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11615-11626
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • gene cluster
  • hybrid incompatibility
  • introgression
  • sex chromosome
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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